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August 24 2008

Tony Head talks about his grandmother's grave. A follow-up of sorts to that article we had earlier about the church wanting to expand by building over graves.

This is Tony's personal take on what's going on with the church and his grandmother's grave (As well as graves of others).

If you read the comments in the other article, you'd know someone had actually said "90 years is long enough" to grieve for a loved one. As if a time limit can be put on something like that. Tony & his family haven't had that long, as you'll see.

Not nice at all. I grieve with them, it could have been handled in a much gentler way by that vicar.
I work as an archaeologist in England (London to be precise) and it's a real problem (in my personal view) that I see all the time. All too often cemeteries are destroyed because the Church needs the space and the consideration given to relatives is the bare legal minimum. Very sad, ASH isn't the only one.
To find out where one's grandmother is buried only when and because her burial spot is about to vanish? A painful chapter in his family history has become more painful.
Pointy I just wish there was something we, as fans, could do to show our support. I commented on the original article, but that seems...tiny.

I lost my paternal grandfather in '99, my paternal grandmother in '02, my maternal grandfather in '04 and a paternal uncle in '05 (The week before I met Tony @MCB) - all three on my dad's side are in the same cemetery, next to each other, and I know my family would be outraged if for some reason those graves were disturbed.

Rosalind I really would like to get the "other side" of this, so we have a better understanding of why the church has to expand, and why it has to go in the direction they claim it does. In the original article there was talk of lighting memory candles in full view of other parishoners, and the inability to use the "church room" (Or common room? Dunno church stuff).

And, like I said in my comment on that article, destroying the markers erases history.

nutterbudgie Look for the original article - it's even harsher than ASH's report makes it out to be. It was linked here a while back.
That's horrible ... at the very least you'd think the church would 'relocate' the graves instead of destroying them. And the other vicar he spoke of who shot the pigeons and destroyed ancient graves is equally sad.
It's quite complicated (but of course, is anything simple!?)
In England, for historical reasons land belonging to the Church is exempt from Parliamentary Law. In other words the Church can do what they want within their land, with permission of the Diocese. If a Church is seeking permission to develop on its own land they have to ask the Diocese first-who can do what they want, but they don't have to go through any other legal channels.

There are rules that govern the burial grounds that are not inside todays church grounds. One has to apply to the Dept of Justice for permission to excavate these areas(they take into account which faith is ascribed to).

However (as from last year) unless there are above-ground signs of burial, the Home Office won't recognise burial grounds under UK law, so, it's a bit of a free for all ///:o(

As to whythe church has to England for the last couple of hundred years we've very been short of burial space....we're only little!!!! ;o)

[ edited by Rosalind on 2008-08-25 01:11 ]
The earlier article and comments from July can be found here.

As ShadowQuest noted, that article quotes an example by the vicar for one reason for the expansion: "On one occasion a young man came in and wanted to light a candle in memory of his grandmother, who had died. He had to do it in full view of other people." Am I the only one to find it ironic that to provide more space for mourners, the construction intends to bisect the graves of parishoners' family members? It would be one thing if there were no living relatives left, but these are gravesites that I'd imagine would still be visited.
You're not the only one that finds that bitterly ironic, Whedonage.

This is depressing.
I started a post earlier and kept stuttering on what to say. For me this boils down to a lack of respect for tradition, for people's values, and that rules and laws of institutions can trump all of that. I really feel for ASH's family. Imagine, his father just finds out where his mother is buried and now he won't be able to visit and pay his respects. Wish we could sign a huge virtual card and send it to Anthony and his family.
Oddly family knows this kind of situation rather well, even though we live in the more spacious nation of Canada.

My maternal great-great-grandparents emigrated from Scotland in the latter half of the 19th century and eventually ended up settling down in an area close to the American-Canadian border. They were buried locally and their graves stood for about as long as ASH's relatives have. I say "stood" because a local farmer used their tombstones, along with numerous others, as the stone foundation for a hay ramp for his barn. I have a fair certainty the stones were used since they were discarded to make way for a highway since the cemetery had either never had official status or had lost it between the point my relatives were buried and when my grandfather went looking for graves of his ancestors, leading the government to sanction running a highway through technically consecrated grounds.

So....I too am appalled at this kind of illogical behaviour and stand totally beside ASH. Just wish more could be done now to prevent graves from being basically desecrated in order to fulfill some vicar's need to have some shiny chapel to repel the staggering losses the Church of England has seemingly suffering within my limited lifetime (see the article on Buffy supposedly inspiring numerous women to leave the CoE and take up Wicca posted recently).
The Telegraph has also picked up the story, with a few additional details. According to the article, in addition to Peggy's grave (which has no headstone), another to be partially covered is that of her father, Lt Gen Seafield M T Grant.

I did a bit of digging about the background to the plans, and learned this:

According to the Basingstoke Gazette, this has been going since 2003, and has bitterly divided the village. The original plan was for the chapel to be built at the front of the building. It was rejected by the New Forest Council in 2003 because it "would have a "dramatic impact" on the western elevation of the church and would harm the overall character of the building....". It was then taken to the Government, and the planning inspector rejected the application in 2004, stating "The proposed extension would be positioned directly in front of the west elevation and would appear as a separate, self-contained structure. The proposal would harm the special architectural character of the listed building and the character of the conservation area."

The new design (which is to concrete over the graves) was sent to the Planning Council in 2006. You can view the application here. According the report, the church's stated reasons for the extension are:
1) There is no seating space available for smaller, more informal workship groups. The vestry is unsuitable for meaningful worship;
2) The church is difficult to heat in the winter and the chapel would be independently heated and suitable weekday services of 18-20 people;
3) The chapel would also be used for individual prayer/counselling after Sunday services, for the assembly of processions before main service, and for funeral gatherings.

Comments from another attendee at the meeting were printed in The Southern Daily Echo.

I'm very surprised that the church did not take on the responsibility of contacting decendants and left that to the Friends for the Preservation of Burley Church, and I feel for the villagers who have been fighting this battle for over 5 years.

Edited for typos

[ edited by JenskiJen on 2008-08-25 04:41 ]
Tonya J If there's enough interest, I'll contact Liz (Webmistress of Tony's official site) and see if we could do just that - send a card to him & his family voicing our support.

But I'd go one better - I'd have everyone who wishes to email their sentiments to me, I'd select an appropriate card, compile all the emails into one document, and send it to him c/o Tilley Farm. (I was going to suggest sending it around for everyone to sign personally, but...that'd probably take a very long time, since I'm sure some of our over-pond cousins would like to take part.)

When he turned 50 we did something like this over on the Bronze:Beta - I had everyone email me birthday greetings, I put them together & emailed them to one of the members of my fan group, and she then put them in a card that she delivered to a theater he was performing at. I asked him the following year @MCB if he got it, and he said he did & thought it was "cool."

JenskiJen I'd like the definition of "meaningful worship," thanks. And what's wrong with using the money intended for the new building to upgrade the current one's heating?

This whole thing just....argh. Ya know?
Rosalind - What's your main area of interest? Just curious, as I'm an archaeologist in Edinburgh (Iron Age, though).

I do find the sistuation outrageous on several levels, particularly given that commercial building companies are required to have archaeological impact assessments before and during building, yet a church building and surrounds, which is guaranteed to house important archaeological information (not to mention the emotional and spiritual significance) is not.

Suffice to say, I feel terribly sorry for all the families affected.
Thank you for the reports, JenskiJen.
JenskiJen I'd like the definition of "meaningful worship," thanks.

Me too but for wholly different reasons i'd imagine ;).

As before, we're hearing from one side and a side that we're pre-disposed to being on at that. Clearly it's a very emotive issue, folk bringing their own bereavements into it and so on (all but one of my grandparents were cremated so they're totally useless here. Completely inconsiderate some folk ;) but surely the church must have reasons for the extensions, otherwise why spend the money (not to mention persist despite dividing the community) ? I'd love to read their arguments for (rather than just the reasons they put on a council application form - though thanks indeed for the links JenskiJen). Could well be they have none of course, could be this really is just bureaucracy running rough-shod over people's wishes but it'd sure be cool to try to get a feel for both sides' case.

(the planning application mentions 11 letters against and, unusually, one for - I say unusually because more people voice disapproval than approval for something, not sure if it's generally 11 to 1 though ;)

But the question i'm most interested in is, why not just move the graves ? Isn't that the ideal solution, surely the money could be raised by the Friends of Burley ? For my own self I don't really "get" it, isn't the point to remember your lost loved ones in life and what they mean to you - does it really matter whether you're 6 feet away directly above them or 12 feet away off at a slant ? When I remember my grandparents i'm usually hundreds of miles from where they were scattered (geographically anyway, might've inhaled some atoms by now ;), is my remembering less meaningful then ? But I understand that for some (maybe most) people it's important to be near the remains and it seems like a vicar of all people should appreciate that (no-matter what religion says about the body after death, people might know the words but their feelings are another matter).
Saje What I'd like to see is a memorial wall of some sort, or a walkway or some other dedication to the five people whose graves are to be affected. That way the loved ones still have somewhere to "focus" on (Don't mean to offend here; just not coming up with a better word) and the church can do their expansion.

We know two of the graves being affected - Tony's grandmother and great-grandfather. It'd be nice to know the other three names, just so they're not completely anonymous.

And, yes, the other side needs to be told. I think most of us are just plain confused as to why this is happening, why it's necessary to expand, why other routes can't be taken.
I think that's a smashing idea. Some sort of stone placard with the names, dates, etc., or anything along the lines you suggested, with a bench to sit on and ruminate. I've read before on this subject people think moving the bodies might solve this. Even though I'm not into earthly resting places and plan to be cremated, some people think it very insensitive and even sacriligeous to move the deceased, and with graves as old as the ones in question, moving the remains could be difficult.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2008-08-25 16:13 ]
Hi NotMandatory:

What's your main area of interest? Just curious, as I'm an archaeologist in Edinburgh (Iron Age, though)

I've worked in London archaeology for a long time now, initially in the field, so I've have had the pleasure of working on numerous types of sites from most periods (though less so prehistoric ones). I'm currently a project\contracts manager, so I set up and manage numerous archaeological projects of all different types each week-including cemetery excavations. Most of my projects are linked to planning obligations.
TonyaJ Ooh, there goes my brain again, storming.

What about...a cornerstone of the new portion of the church? "To commemorate" and the names & dates of those disturbed.

In fact...what if we look into helping raise funds for it? The way we Whedonites galvanize for good causes I'm sure we could help put a dent into it. First, of course, someone would need to contact someone, probably the Friends, and see if that's even something they'd be interested in. Then the church itself would need to be contacted, see if they'd agree to it. Then the families would need to be contacted. Then the organization could take place.

Whew! See what happens when I get a trickle? It turns into a deluge.
If you need someone local to go and see people I am a short drive from Burley.
Yes, or individual stone or brass plaques or cartouches, set into the outside wall above each bisected grave.
Mehitabel Would you? I'd think start by contacting the Friends of the church, see if they'd be interested in the memorial. And then we'll go from there.

I'm sure there are enough fans who would be willing to chip in what they can to at least give them a bit of relief in the total cost.

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